12 November 2019 – Electricity in Skerries, ESB 1940-2005

12 November 2019 – Electricity in Skerries, ESB 1940-2005

Hugh Halpin

The nights are drawing in and there’s a nip in the air but all is not lost, Skerries Historical Society can still find entertaining speakers to while away the odd winter evening. This month Hugh Halpin returned to the spotlight with his third and final paper on electricity with ‘The ESB in Skerries 1940-2005’. Hugh was able to speak with authority on this subject as he worked for the Electricity Supply Board for many years.

The early 1940s weren’t great years for expanding a business and, after a couple of hot summers had impacted the Ardnacrusha  Hydroelectric Plant, the ESB depended more on coal-fired power stations. Fuel imports were going astray courtesy of the Third Reich and its U-boats and the coal imports that did get through weren’t up to the mark so there were price hikes and rationing.

If you wanted to complain about your supply, or lack thereof, Sean Lemass was your man. As Minister for Supplies during the Emergency, the buck stopped with him and he made it easy for Skerries people to unburden themselves to him by spending the summers here, as he had since his boyhood. Golfers will know that he was a member of Skerries Golf Club from the early 1930s right up until his death in 1971 and served as both Captain and President.

After the war, the ESB was keen to expand rural electrification. Sean Lemass winningly suggested that girls being courted by farmers would tot up the number of electrical appliances her swain could provide her with rather than total his cows. Many farmers were keen to modernise, until the reality of regular bills reared its ugly head. Of the 417 who signed up to be connected in the Man O War area in the late 1940s, many turned out to be ‘backsliders’. They refused the connection later when all the poles and wires were already in the process of being erected.

One lady who was happy to be with the ESB was Mrs Jones, poultry farmer, of Golf Links Road. She bought a special electric cooker in 1954 to prepare the feed. Mr Joe Butterly found, in 1965, that electric fluorescent lighting was invaluable in sprouting his thirty tons of potato seed. Meanwhile, in 1967, the Windmill Restaurant in New Street had an electric oven, dishwasher, washing machine, tumble dryer and various other appliances delivered which no doubt made her the envy of her neighbours.

An Area Office was opened in part of Annie Fulham’s house on Quay Street in 1953 and later transferred to a purpose built premises on Strand Street in 1961. The number of staff grew as the population in Skerries and beyond expanded. The office closed in 2005 as the ESB rationalised resulting in the fifty-two year face-to-face service in Skerries coming to an end. 

Hugh’s former co-workers turned up on the night in force and Shay Costello stood up to give his thoughts on working for the ESB – but he did it through poetry and song! And very soon he had cajoled his former co-workers, AND the unsuspecting audience, to join with him. We finished off the night feeling very jolly!